Thanks in part to the extreme popularity of Twilight and the myriad of similar stories it has spawned or brought back from the brink of obscurity, vampires are currently enjoying a renaissance in the cultural zeitgeist. One has only to quickly browse the YA shelves at the closest Indigo to see this phenomenon at work. But while vampires receive so much cultural attention (read: obsession), other horror-story creatures often get left by the wayside.
Or so it seems.
I would argue that rather than being forgotten, other supernatural stories are being mined for their choicest elements, and inserted into the currently commercially profitable world of vampires.
As most people probably know, in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson tells the story of the lawyer Mr. Utterson, who attempts to uncover the relationship between his friend, the esteemed Dr. Henry Jekyll, and the ugly and degenerate criminal Mr. Hyde, only to find that the men are in fact one and the same. Utterson discovers that Jekyll has created a potion that was originally an attempt to separate the good and evil aspects of human nature into separate identities, but instead resulted in his own transformation into the evil Mr. Hyde.
It is this element, the idea of a “dual-nature”, or what is now even referred to as a “Jekyll-and-Hyde complex” or, in more psychiatric terms, “split personality disorder” or “multiple identity disorder” that surfaces in other stories.
Think of Twilight’s own Edward Cullen, and how his dual nature, and his suppression of the animal inside himself, leads him to act so differently with Bella at different times. Or think of Joss Whedon’s much superior creation, Angel/Angelus, who embodies this trait even better. While I’ve admittedly never watched an episode of The Vampire Diaries, from what I do know, this is a trait characteristic of both Salvatore vampire brothers as well.
But it’s just the vampire myths that have borrowed from Jekyll. Many people will most likely recognize this dual nature in The Hulk, Two-Face, and in the general superhero story of having to lead a double life, really.
There have been over a hundred different adaptations of Stevenson’s story, including my personal favourite, the 1997 Broadway musical Jekyll & Hyde by Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse, (which is coming to Toronto in November!) as well as the graphic novel by Alan Grant and Cam Kennedy. However, no such adaptations have emerged recently. Instead, the concept of a “dual nature” appears in today’s more popular stories about vampires, stripped of all the scientific and “whodunit” aspects of the original story, and lacking almost any resemblance to Stevenson’s original debate about the true nature of good and evil.